When I first imagined this blog, I had a few different ideal readers in mind. One was the vegan mom who's busy and looking for fun ways to use the tools in her kitchen to serve her better. Another was someone veg-curious who thought vegan food might be too complicated or an unwelcome burden in the kitchen.
The third was the hostess. As a vegan among many non-vegans in my friend group, many times I've been asked, "I have a friend who is vegan and I want to make her something, but I don't know what?" or "My cousin is coming over and she just went vegan! I don't have any idea what to cook!" While some vegans might scoff at non-vegans, I find these considerate hosts a breath of fresh air, and I want to help.
So, you've invited a vegan over, or you are going to a vegan's house and want to bring something. Just by that first step, I can tell you are an awesome person being considerate and respectful of the dietary and lifestyle choices of your friend/family member, and I want to say thank you.
Tonight, as we were driving to a friend's house for dinner, my 6 year old suddenly said from the backseat, "Wait, are they vegan?" Even at 6, she knows that when we go to other people's houses we usually either bring our own food or eat after. I explained that our friends our vegetarian, which means they don't eat meat, but they eat some eggs and cow milk, but they were making a vegan meal. My 4 year old piped up with a gasp, "For US?!" Even at 4, he knows that most people don't cook vegan normally and that it's a big deal to be invited to dinner at a friend's house who is going to cook vegan.
So again, if you have invited a vegan over, or even just want to bring a vegan dish to a friend's house, you are ahead of the game- you are great.
Do I have to make tofu?
NO! I love tofu and have eaten it my whole life, since long before I was vegan, but if that's your bag, don't go there. In fact, try not to buy anything you don't normally eat. I bet with some easy swaps, you can make some familiar dishes vegan. You don't want to make something too weird, because then there's the chance you might not like it, and then it just gets awkward when you serve someone else food you think is gross.
What do you make? Here's some examples that friends have made, or things that I make for omni (omnivorous) friends who I don't want to freak out.
Beans and Rice
Beans and rice are naturally vegan (so long as you don't use animal broth or fats-no butter, no lard, no chicken or beef stock, etc) and filling and familiar.
Tostadas/Tacos: Make it a self serve with a variety of toppings and let guests fill the shells themselves. Have beans (there are several brands of vegetarian refried beans that are also vegan), shredded lettuce, avocado or guacamole, salsa, grilled veggies like peppers and onion, green onion, tomato, corn, pickled jalapeños, mango, fresh cilantro, etc. Not all these things, just some, whatever you like. As a side, you can make a Mexican rice or even just pop some rice in the rice cooker. For cheater Mexican rice, cook your rice in the rice cooker and then mix in store bought enchilada sauce (check for chicken stock, etc in ingredients).
Falafel: This Middle Eastern food is super simple to make if you use a mix, and not impossible by just following a recipe. Pair falafel with lemon tahini dressing like Drew's, a fresh salad with tomatoes and cucumber (and red onion if your guest isn't Scott Conant). Read some recipes and get some vegan pita bread for a delicious meal that leaves nothing to be desired (well, maybe vats of hummus too).
Let them Eat Pasta
I find that lots of non-vegans assume I eat pasta 3 meals a day, so maybe you already thought of this, but you can always just make spaghetti with a marinara that doesn't have dairy or meat, and a nice salad. Easy, not weird, and delicious. You are welcome to get freaky and some Meatless Meatballs (Gardein makes a good one), but it's not necessary. If you are concerned about not getting enough protein from this meal, you can bulk up your marinara with cooked quinoa (it will have a consistency of a meat sauce with the quinoa added). Alternately, you could add chickpeas or white beans to the sauce or the salad for a kick.
If you like to make your own pesto, just add some lemon zest and a little more salt in place of the parmesan. If you are feeling adventurous, get some Nutritional Yeast and add that.
But I don't like beans or rice or pasta...
Well what do you like? Potatoes? Risotto? Chili? Anything you can make, I can make vegan. You can either just search, "Vegan ____" whatever it is goes where those dashes are, don't just search for dashes. You could also join a group I admin called, How Can I Make This Vegan? Or, you could call up your friend and say, "I want to make gumbo tonight, do you have a vegan gumbo recipe you like?"
Okay, this seems easy. What do we talk about?
What a weird question. It's your friend! Oh, what you really mean is what should you NOT talk about. That's a good question.
#1: Do not ask your friend why they are vegan over a meal. It would be like if I asked my friend why she chooses not to have children at one of my kids' birthday parties where they are screaming and crying and throwing things. The question and any honest answer is going to just make everyone uncomfortable. If you are curious, and not just trying to fill a lull in conversation, have the chat over coffee/tea in private, and approach it gently. Also, be clear about how honest of answer you want. If you want diplomacy and soft ball pitches, let your friend know. Don't set them up to say something that you will then turn around and call them an extremist jerk about.
#2: Talk about your common hobbies, or even your own hobbies- unless they include animal exploitation or killing. Yes, you may love your weekend fishing/hunting trips or a day at the dog races, but your vegan friend does not want to hear you laugh about those things.
#3: News stories that involve animal cruelty. It seems innocent enough to discuss current events, but many vegans are highly sensitive to animal abuse/cruelty. Tread gently and pay attention to your guest being triggered. It's as simple as respecting anyone's beliefs and feelings, but sometimes we forget that something like this could deeply upset our friends. Even non-vegans are sometimes highly sensitive to the suffering of animals, so that one can just go across the board.
You Did It!
If you have a great dinner/meal with a vegan friend and they invite you over, accept! Don't be scared that they are going to "convert" your or feed you tofu (they might). You can say, "I'm really afraid of tofu" or "I'm allergic to mushrooms" or "I'm one of those people who thinks cilantro tastes like soap." Give them the best chance to make you are delicious vegan meal without cooking something you are going to freak out about.
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